Quebec’s HIV/AIDS Services Continue Being Defunded

The COCQ-SIDA has rung the alarm about its funding crisis from the federal and provincial governments.

There are now less than five months remaining until the funding cycle for local HIV/AIDS services from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is renewed on Apr. 1, 2022. The Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA), a representational body of Quebec’s HIV/AIDS community organizations, is concerned about the deadline’s impacts.

The organization has been pointing at a crisis revolving around issues of funding. Unfortunately, rates of HIV/AIDS transmission across Canada have been on the rise for quite some time. Since 2003, Canada has implemented new programs to fight the virus in a multitude of ways, spanning from treatment to prevention. Members of Parliament urged the Harper government to increase funding, but its response was underwhelming according to doctors and activists. In 2016, the Trudeau government, in a bid to balance its  funding, shifted financial focus to prevention rather than treatment, creating huge gaps from which groups like the COCQ-SIDA are now feeling the burden. In 2016, 42 treatment-oriented groups saw their funding vanish in this shift. Because funding hasn’t increased in years according to the COCQ-SIDA, organizations that require assistance will only require more resources as cases continue on an upward trend.

The current method used by Ottawa to supply local groups with funding is primarily two-fold: HIV/AIDS service funds are distributed by the Community Action Fund (CAF) and the Harm Reduction Fund (HRF). The CAF is given over $26 million by the federal government, which they allot by granting organizations with five-year funding contracts. The HRF gets $7 million to distribute in the form of three to five-year contracts with a maximum of $250,000 for a single group annually. The COCQ-SIDA’s primary issue is that these numbers have not evolved to reflect the times.

“The impact of the decisions of the PHAC, within the framework of the 2021 calls for submissions for the CAF and the HRF, means that several member organizations of the COCQ-SIDA [who are] well rooted in their communities and [have] varied expertise find themselves victims of this chronic underfunding. The situation is even more serious in the context of underfunding at the provincial level,” said Ken Monteith, director general of COCQ-SIDA.

Due to the issue of increased demand and stagnant finances, many groups are struggling. On top of these issues, contracts have expiration dates. After those three or five-year deals, many organizations might not have their funding renewed, forcing their operations to be scaled down. “We are going to have to reduce our staff very significantly, to the point of having to consider closing the organization,” said Charlène Aubé from IRIS Estrie, an organization in Sherbrooke whose contract was not renewed.

Several other centres across Quebec will be faced with harsh realities this spring. Thousands of Quebecers living with HIV/AIDS, as well as others who might contract the disease will be impacted by these policy decisions in the very near future.

Graphic Courtesy of Rose-Marie Dion


Iqaluit water crisis

The state of emergency in the capital of Nunavut continues

A state of emergency was called in Iqaluit on Oct. 12 when evidence of fuel was found in the city’s water supply; the Nunavut minister of health has extended the state of emergency until Oct. 28.

Iqaluit is the capital city of Nunavut, with a population of more than 7,500 people, and the highest population of Inuit of any Canada city, with over 3,900 Inuit people living there. Residents of the city have been advised not to drink or cook with the tap water, even boiled or filtered, as the tap water is not safe for consumption.

According to an article in Nunatsiaq News, residents began complaining on Facebook of foul-smelling tap water on Oct. 2. The source of the fuel contamination is still under investigation.

As the crisis continues, hospitals are unable to wash or sterilize their equipment. Iqaluit Deputy Mayor Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster explained in a Twitter thread that, because of the water crisis and the pandemic, some patients have had to be medivaced to Ottawa. One medivac can cost over $40,000. 

“The current state of emergency in Iqaluit has impacted our only hospital’s ability to provide my mum’s urgently required procedure because the equipment that is needed can not be safely sterilized due to the fuel in the water,” tweeted Brewster.

Nunavut CBC reporters Jackie McKay and Pauline Pemik believe that this water crisis is tied to infrastructure gaps between the Arctic and the rest of Canada, as well as the impacts of climate change in the region and the failure of the federal government.

The issue has reached Canada-wide, with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, along with NDP MP for Nunavut, Lori Idlout, sharing in a public statement, “The federal government must immediately respond to the state of emergency in Iqaluit due to a contaminated water supply.”

The statement explained that having access to clean water is a common issue in rural and remote communities, specifically in Northern areas and Indigenous communities.

The Federal government responded to the crisis on Oct. 22 by sending the Canadian Armed Forces to help provide and distribute clean drinking water in Iqaluit.


Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Algeria faces a second wave of its pro-democracy movement

The movement is also known as ‘‘the Hirak’’

Algerians resumed their pro-democracy protests on the second anniversary of the country’s pro-democracy movement on Feb. 22, 2021, following calls for demonstrations launched on social networks in Algiers, the country’s capital.

In support of their compatriots there, the Algerian diaspora in Montreal gathers every weekend from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., not only to demand the departure of the regime in place, but also to urge the Algerian authorities to end all repression against militants and journalists.

The protest begins in front of the Algerian Consulate and ends at Place du Canada.

Bouzid Ichalalene, director of publication of the electronic journal ‘‘INTERLIGNES Algérie,’’ posted about the issue on Twitter, saying: ‘‘Through their placards, the demonstrators demand “a rule of law,” “a free press” and “a free and democratic Algeria.’’

The Hirak protests started two years ago when then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his intention to run the country for a fifth term.

However, even after Bouteflika’s resignation on April 2, 2019, the Algerian community continued to put on pressure to bring down the entire regime.

Unfortunately, in March 2020, all protests were suspended due to coronavirus restrictions, and the Algerian authorities took the suspension of the weekly outdoor Hirak protests as an opportunity to silence the voices of the opposition at a time when the movement started gaining strength internationally.

According to the draft law presented by Algerian Justice Minister, Belkacem Zeghmati, during the month of March: ‘‘Algerians who have committed acts outside the territory ‘seriously prejudicial to the interests of the State’ or ‘undermining national unity’ could be deprived of their nationality, ‘acquired or of origin.’’’’

This draft law, which was submitted by Zeghmati in the form of an amendment to the nationality law, raised serious concerns within the vast Algerian population around the world.

‘‘While Algerian activists are prosecuted for their online posts on social media, those of us living abroad may not be able to return home any time soon,’’ said Bochra Rouag, an Arts and Literature student at LaSalle college, during the protest in Montreal.

After several weeks of controversy on the subject, the Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced the withdrawal of the draft bill because of a misunderstanding.

‘‘We withdrew it because there were other interpretations,” explained Tebboune during his April. 4th press briefing.

The Hirak movement has drawn attention internationally. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Algerian authorities to immediately end violence against peaceful protesters and to stop arbitrary detentions.


Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion



Indian protesters will not back down till their demands are met

Indian farmer protests explained

Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have been protesting against three new farming bills for almost seven months now. Around 60 per cent of India’s population works in the farming industry and many are living in poverty. They fear these new laws will make their current situation even worse.

The new bills seek to reform India’s current farming system by:

  1. Allowing farmers to sell directly outside of Mundis (state-owned markets)
  2. Allowing farmers to enter into contracts with the private sector by allowing orders on future crops
  3. Removing hoarding regulations, allowing traders to stockpile food

The Modi government claims that these new regulations will “liberate” the farmers; however, farmer’s unions believe that the government is “throwing them to the wolves.”

Farmers claim that these laws will put them at the private sector’s mercy, since their obligations are to their shareholders and not the farmers’ wellbeing.

In the state-owned Mundis, there are currently Minimum Support Prices (or MSP) in place, which guarantee the farmers a minimum price to sell their crops. These new bills will remove MSP pricing since the private sector’s goal is to increase profitability.

Additionally, nearly 70 per cent of Indian farmers are small producers, which means they will have little to no bargaining power against big corporations.

The only way Indian farmers and farmers’ unions can spread their concerns is by protesting. This is why tens of thousands of farmers from the Punjab and Haryana regions marched to India’s capital on January 26th. They have been protesting in the region for over 100 days.

Farmers have set up camp, brought food, and are ready to stay for as long as needed. They have already stated that they will not leave until the government rectifies the bills.

Overall, the farmers protest civilly and peacefully per their rights in the Indian constitution. However, the Indian government has been using “war-like measures” to disperse the protesters and stop them from exercising their rights.

Indian officials have put up barricades and nail strips around the Delhi region to prevent farmers from entering the area. Additionally, police have used tear gas and water cannons against the crowds. Some protesters have reported being beaten with batons. At one point during the protests, the government even cut off internet access.

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, even called out the Indian government by saying, “People have a right to demonstrate peacefully, and authorities need to let them do so.”

With the Indian government refusing to rectify the farming bills, the protests could last several more months.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Coup d’état in Myanmar

The Southeast Asian nation faces major threat to its democracy

On Feb. 1, a military coup took place in Myanmar following alleged voter fraud in last November’s general election. The army has detained former President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, thus taking full control of the government.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party formed a majority government after winning more than 60 per cent of the seats in Myanmar’s parliament last November. However, the military accused the party of voter fraud and refused to accept the results.

Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing managed to reverse Myanmar’s transition towards democracy. His army severely limited telecommunications and shut down the internet across the country for 24 hours on Feb. 6.

A state of emergency was declared for a whole year as soon as the coup began. The official announcement was transmitted by military-owned television network Myawaddy TV.

Expecting a wave of mass protests, the new government banned all gatherings of more than five people in Myanmar’s two largest cities and imposed an overnight curfew.

Still, thousands of protesters — particularly monks, school teachers and students — took to the streets of Yangon in demanding for Suu Kyi’s release. Doctors, nurses, and government workers have also contributed to this resistance by engaging in civil disobedience, which continues to this day.

Since Feb. 1, the military has arrested at least 241 peaceful demonstrators and activists, including senior government officials. The Burmese police force also fired water cannons at the protesters to control the opposition movement in the capital city Naypyidaw.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the actions of Myanmar’s military, calling on the self-declared government to immediately release everyone who has been detained and to respect the democratic process in the nation.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden issued sanctions against Myanmar, freezing all American assets of military coup leaders, denying them entry into the United States, and restricting many Burmese exports until the military steps down.

As of now, Suu Kyi may be sentenced to two years in prison for possessing “illegal” walkie-talkies. In fact, this is not the first time that the state counsellor has been targeted for representing democracy in the nation. She has already spent 15 years under house arrest throughout her political career.

In 1991, Suu Kyi received a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to establish democracy in the country. She continues to strive for justice in Myanmar by calling on the nation to protest against the army’s takeover to prevent “a military dictatorship.”

However, the military coup leader announced that only cooperating with his government will help Myanmar achieve “the successful realization of democracy.” Despite the mass protests and international attention, the military is not willing to step down from its position of power anytime soon.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

Indigenous social media influencer donates to Montreal shelter

Inuk TikToker Shina Novalinga donated over $12,000 in goods to the Native Women’s Shelter in Montreal

In the beginning of January Shina Novalinga, a well-known Inuk TikToker from Montreal, donated 100 gift bags to the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) for the holidays.

“This year we want to give back,” said Novalinga in a TikTok alongside her mother Caroline, who also has a popular TikTok account. The two had decided to use GoFundMe, a popular crowdfunding platform, to fundraise money to donate gift bags for the women at the shelter.

“They’re often forgotten on Christmas day,” said Caroline in the video, referencing the Indigenous population in Montreal. The video was posted on Dec. 25 and gained 379,600 views. By the beginning of January $12,482 was raised, with donations varying from $5 to $500.

The 100 bags were worth roughly $120 each, including items such as disposable masks, hygiene pads, clothing, Indigenous handmade earrings or bracelets, $15 Tim Hortons cards, and bannock — an Indigenous type of fry bread.

Much more was included in the bags, such as heartfelt handwritten notes that said things such as “I love you for no reason” or “You are worthy of a beautiful life.”

“It’s important to give back to our community and it has always been part of our values,” Novalinga stated on the GoFundMe website.

Novalinga and her mother became popular Indigenous TikTokers through videos of the two throat singing, where traditionally two women face each other and sing in a contest to see who will outlast the other.

The NWSM is the only women’s shelter in Montreal that exclusively serves Indigenous women and their children.

With COVID-19, the shelter is no longer able to pick up donations, but they are currently doing drop-off days for donations twice a month, according to the website.

Kate Legrand, an Administrative Assistant at the NWSM, said that donations can also be made by credit card or cheque, but they are not currently accepting e-transfers.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

Swept under the rug: disappearing Indigenous languages

Brazil’s native identity threatened amid COVID-19

Around 7,000 languages are spoken worldwide today, yet over 40 per cent of them are at risk of disappearing before the end of this century. On average, one Indigenous language dies every two weeks, and this rate has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brazil is one of the most vulnerable countries currently seeing its native languages disappear, despite being a very diverse nation. The largest and most populated country in South America is home to 305 Indigenous ethnic groups, with almost every tribe having its own language. The number, however, was much higher before the 16th century: thousands of Indigenous languages have disappeared in Brazil since it was colonized by Portugal during that period.

Elderly natives are almost always the last representatives of their tribe’s language, since languages disappear when the younger generation no longer uses, or even understands, them.

First, the language dies when it loses its last native speaker. Then, it becomes extinct when it is no longer understood even by second-language speakers.

Such occurrences are far from uncommon, as elders and parents face challenges when passing their language to the next generation. As a result of European colonialism, Indigenous languages were unable to solidify their position not only in Brazil, but also in most of sub-Saharan and West Africa, as well as North America.

English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese became the lingua francas of the former colonies. Different ethnic groups would use European languages to communicate with one another. Moreover, when young Indigenous people look for opportunities in their own country, mastering a European language is a necessity, while their mother tongue’s use in the professional world is virtually non-existent.

However, the Guaraní people in Brazil managed to resist assimilation and keep its language alive. There are over 50,000 Guaraní people in the country, and their language is even taught in the community’s public elementary schools.

Other Indigenous languages in Brazil, though, have an unfortunate fate. Puruborá, Omagua, and Tariana are already considered critically endangered, with only 100, 10, and two native speakers left on the planet, respectively.

In 2020, the biggest challenge for endangered Indigenous languages is the pandemic, as elders are the age group most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus. With over 175,000 pandemic-related deaths in Brazil, the situation is alarming for Indigenous groups. Not only their language, but also their history, values, traditions, and entire cultures are at risk of being permanently erased.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which consists entirely of plastic debris and waste, spans approximately 1.6 million square kilometres, that’s roughly twice the size of Texas.

Somewhere between Hawaii and California, in the temperate waters of the Pacific Ocean, lies an island that has scarcely been visited by humans. It is one of the few man-made locations on the globe that has yet to be colonized.

Contrary to other secluded must-visit islands in the Pacific ocean, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a luxurious get-away spot.

Spanning approximately 1.6 million square kilometres, or twice the size of Texas, the Great Pacific Garbage patch is a build up of plastics and other debris. It is the largest of the five off-shore plastic accumulation zones in the world, according to The Ocean Cleanup, a Netherlands-based non-profit organization that is developing advanced technologies in an effort to rid the oceans of plastic.

While organizations such as The Ocean Cleanup are building technologies to help clean the waters, individuals are also adding to the cause like the French-American man Benoît Lecomte, who swam the length of the garbage patch to collect data and raise awareness.

In 2019, Lecomte set out to swim 300 nautical miles, or just under two kilometres, alongside a crew boat. The accompanying scientists collected data to track the movement of the plastics and marine life. He began his journey in Japan on June 5, with the intent to swim up to eight hours per day for three months.

Lecomte, who in 1998 swam across the Atlantic Ocean in just 73 days in support of cancer research, said he wanted to do something to bring attention to the increasing amount of plastic in our oceans, in an interview with Austin 360.

“We saw a lot of items we use on land, like plastic cups, straws, forks and spoons and oil containers,” Lecomte told Austin 360. “It was depressing because you see amazing sea life, then you see the plastic that we infect the oceans with, and it’s not supposed to be there.”

Accompanied by scientists from NASA and the University of Hawaii, Lecomte ended his journey on Nov. 11, 2019, though he did not complete it. Despite the thought of not finishing the expedition being among his greatest fears before setting out on his journey, he said that all he can do going forward is to turn people’s attention towards plastic pollution.

“I think that’s the problem — we don’t think it’s that big of a problem, but it’s all due to what we do on land,” Lecomte told Austin 360.

In fact, 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers, according to a study by Laurent Lebreton, an oceanographer and the head of research at The Ocean Cleanup. 

According to Lebreton’s study, because of plastic’s “durability, low-recycling rates, poor waste management and maritime use, a significant portion of the plastics produced worldwide enters and persists in marine ecosystems.”

The density of these plastics is less than that of the water, allowing them to rise to the surface and be transported from smaller bodies of water, such as rivers and streams, to the ocean.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is bound by the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which is what draws the plastic and other waste together. A gyre is a large system of rotating ocean currents, as defined by the National Ocean Service. In other words, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is part of a giant vortex of debris. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre consists of four of these “vortices” rotating in a clockwise direction.

The centre of these four currents forms the most dense area of the garbage patch. However, as per a 2018 study conducted by Lebreton on the rapid rate at which the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is accumulating plastic, it is estimated that if the less dense outer region of the garbage patch were considered when estimating the mass of the patch, the total would weigh approximately 100,000 tonnes.

In the same 2018 study, Lebreton and his team estimated that 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and waste were floating in the patch. According to Lebreton, this would be 250 pieces of garbage for every individual on the planet.

At an estimate of around 40,000 pieces, the majority of the waste consists of plastic ropes and fishing lines, followed by hard plastic items. While it may seem as though these items are easy to remove, it is, in fact, the opposite. As large hard plastics break down within the garbage patch, sun exposure, waves, and other environmental factors cause them to deteriorate into microplastics, which are virtually invisible to the human eye.

According to the National Ocean Service, these microplastics are often mistaken for food by marine life, putting them in danger. A 2018 study in the journal Environmental Pollution found that “half of the fecal samples and one-third of the mackerels contained microplastics.”

For the time being, microplastics remain a problem that is unresolvable, but that hasn’t stopped The Ocean Cleanup from developing new missions to clean up The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

System 002, which is part of their second clean-up mission, is planned to be a system that is able to “endure and retain the collected plastic for long periods of time.” It is set to be ready for 2021 in an effort to fulfill their goal of reducing the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans by at least 90 per cent by 2040.

Visit The Ocean Cleanup’s website for more information.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Ethiopia is in turmoil

Ethiopia’s ethnic tensions may cause a civil war

The possibility of a  civil war stirs between Ethiopia and its Tigray region. Since Nov. 4, missiles have been launched, with various battles held across the country. 20,000 civilians have fled to Sudan. All of this has unfolded under a communication blackout.

The conflict began with a surprise attack made by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TLPF) on an Ethiopian military base. This was a consequence of a dispute between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray leadership over a regional election that was federally illegal.

The reporting of this conflict became murky when Abiy cut electricity, telephone, and internet services in Tigray. It became a media blind spot.

Since then, the situation has escalated rapidly. Missiles struck Ethiopian airports, the Tigray Region and bordering country Eritrea. According to the TLPF’s leader Debretsion Gebremicheal, Eritrea is sending troops in Tigray, justifying their missile strike in Eritrea’s capital.

Due to the blackout, no one can confirm nor deny these claims, but both Eritrea’s leader and Prime Minister Abiy have been prompt in denying this.

The lack of on-foot media coverage has made this conflict hard to follow, but the facts are these: 20,000 refugees have fled the Tigray region to Sudan; missiles were exchanged between the TLPF, Eritrea and the rest of Ethiopia; there is evidence of mass killings in the Tigray region; Abiy is resolute in trying “to save the country and region from instability,” and the TLPF has no intentions of backing down.

The cause of this situation lies in Ethiopia’s deep-rooted ethnic dilemmas. The Tigrayan’s TLPF ruled the country for almost 20 years until they merged into a coalition due to other ethnic groups feeling discriminated against.

It is called the Prosperity Party and it appointed Ahmed as Prime Minister in 2019. Although, the relationship between Tigray and the rest of the country deteriorated when the TLPF left the coalition.

From then on, Ahmed turned against Tigrayan leadership, and they were eventually pushed aside from the federal government altogether. This escalating tension resulted in civil unrest.

Ethiopia has one of Africa’s largest military forces, but their most experienced fighters are Tigrayan. Most of their military hardware is controlled by Tigrayans. So, if this escalates further, the consequences could be very damaging to the Horn of Africa.

A civil war in Ethiopia and surrounding countries could bring Africa to a halt. If it keeps escalating under a media blackout, who knows where this will go.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

Swept under the rug: An island nation lost in time

North Sentinel Island: home to an uncontacted tribe that kills its visitors

Located in the Bay of Bengal, India, the Sentinelese are some of the last peoples on Earth who remain virtually untouched by modern civilization. This island nation does not know about the existence of electricity, cars, or cellphones, and meets visitors from the outside world with violence.

Between 50 and 400 people are estimated to be living on North Sentinel Island, whose surface area is just 60 square kilometres. While it is officially administered by India, the government does not intervene into the island’s affairs and declared it a tribal reserve in 1956.

The island is not only separated by a distance of 1,200 kilometers from the mainland, but also by an entire era from the rest of the world. The people on the island live in huts, with fire being the only man-made light source.

There is no evidence that the tribe has discovered agriculture or created its own writing system. The main source of food appears to be the sea, where the locals use small outrigger canoes to hunt fish, sea turtles and crabs with spears.

The tribe itself is part of the Andaman Indigenous population. However, its language cannot be understood by any related ethnic group, as it has been separated from all civilizations since at least the 19th century.

In fact, the British Empire, Burma, and Japan have all attempted to occupy the island, but the tribe showed strong resistance and successfully defended their territory from the powerful nations.

Even today, the Sentinelese continue to meet visitors with aggression, as they perceive every foreigner as a threat.

In the past decades, Indian anthropologist Triloknath Pandit was one of the few explorers who successfully interacted with the tribe. In 1991, he attempted to befriend the island nation by offering them coconuts, pots, as well as iron hammers and knives.

Although the Sentinelese accepted the gifts, Pandit recounted in an interview with the BBC that “Warriors faced [his group] with angry and grim faces and were fully armed with their long bows and arrows, all set to defend their land.”

The Sentinelese, however, go far beyond intimidating their visitors.

In 2018, the tribe brutally murdered John Allen Chau, an American missionary who attempted to introduce Christianity to the island nation. In 2006, the tribe also killed two fishermen with a row of arrows, as their boat was approaching the island.

Today, it is a criminal offense to have contact with the islanders, as they are not immune to foreign diseases. Moreover, in 2017, the Indian government ruled that even photographing and filming the Sentinelese people could result in up to three years in prison.

Therefore, as the outside world has an extremely limited access to the Sentinelese, the island nation is likely to continue its traditional way of life. Ever since Pandit made a peaceful entrance in 1991, all attempts of contact have resulted in violence, so the tribe is expected to remain in isolation for many years to come.


Swept Under the Rug: the cost of the Renaissance Dam

The construction of the biggest dam in Africa is creating friction

The Nile River’s water flow will soon be dominated by human hands as Ethiopia is constructing the biggest dam in Africa on one of its core arteries: the Blue Nile.

The Nile is vital for the survival of the countries down its path. Now that Ethiopia has the power to cut one of its flows, this conflict specifically targets Egypt and Sudan, who historically rely on the Nile’s yearly water cycles to sustain themselves.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is a nation-defining opening for Ethiopia. The opportunities that it will bring to this poverty-stricken country is immeasurable as it will produce a reliable source of income and jobs for Ethiopians.

Also, according to the World Bank, only 45 percent of Ethiopians have access to electricity. This dam will be able to offer service for all Ethiopians with enough leftover energy to offer surrounding countries. So, for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, this strengthens his resolve to complete the construction of the dam.

For Egypt and Sudan, the consequences of Ethiopia’s control over the Blue Nile are dire. According to Al-Jazeera, Egypt gets about 90 per cent of its fresh water from the river, and the Blue Nile contributes to 85 per cent of the Nile’s water flow.

Even partially cutting water supply from the Blue Nile could have catastrophic effects for the over 140 million Egyptian and Sudanese people.

Since 2011, negotiations have been ongoing between the three countries to reach a consensus, but Ethiopia has been shrewd throughout. For Ahmed, keeping up with a bigger country like Egypt is a show of strength for the Ethiopians. According to The Week, Ahmed has the intention to mobilize troops if push comes to shove.

Even with the mediation of the African Union, currently led by South Africa, the negotiations have not progressed.

Ethiopia is still proceeding forward with the dam’s construction, disregarding Egypt and Sudan’s fragile water supply.

Recently, Ethiopia has banned flight activities over the dam’s construction site for security reasons, according to The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority. Ethiopia’s reluctance to give further details will put yet another dent in the everlasting negotiations.

Ahmed said last month at the United Nations that Ethiopia has no intention to harm Egypt and Sudan, but the targeted countries have continued to voice their concerns.

However, the Ethiopian government officially announced that it has every intention to start generating power with GERD’s two established turbines this year.

They are committed to completing this project, even if agreements have not yet been met. This leaves Egypt and Sudan in suspense; will there be a way for them to reach an agreement, or will the dam be completed beforehand?


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Swept under the rug: Modern Day Atlantis

Tuvalu: A disappearing country

For decades, the country of Tuvalu has been at risk of being swallowed by the Pacific Ocean. Despite this, sea levels keep rising and the world turns a blind eye.

At risk of becoming the first group of climate refugees, Tuvalu is a group of islands — or archipelago — located in the Southwest Pacific, near Australia and New Zealand. Home to 11,000 people, this nation is the fourth smallest in the world in terms of land area.

Approximately one third of the population lives on the main island, Funafuti — the largest land mass in the country — where most government buildings are located. On Niulakita lies the highest point in the islands, a mere five metres above sea level.

Previously being a non-believer in climate change, Nausaleta Setani, a local to Tuvalu, said, “the weather is changing very quickly, day to day, hour to hour,” in an interview with The Guardian.

“I have been learning the things that are happening are the result of man, especially [from] other countries. It makes me sad. But I understand other countries do what is best for their people. I am from a small country. All I want is for the bigger countries to respect us, and think of our lives,” Setani said.

In an interview with Sky News Australia, Jonathan Pryke, Director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program said, “what the Pacific leaders want is not more money thrown into the region to mitigate climate change, it’s more domestic action in Australia to help reduce climate change in the first place.”

Tuvalu also faces a lack of viable land to grow food on. A once self-sufficient nation now almost entirely relies on imports from the mainland. The Journal of Ocean University of China said, “the land loss in Tuvalu is mainly caused by inappropriate human activities including coastal engineering and aggregate mining, and partly caused by cyclones.”

The rising sea levels are the biggest impending issue for the archipelago, which is a direct result of melting ice caps, caused by western industries such as Australia’s coal mining industry.

Countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change are often the least powerful ones. And it will continue to swallow Tuvalu, taking the country’s unique culture and thousands of inhabitants with it.

Graphic by @the.beta.lab

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